“I return from my travels, I navigated by building happiness”

Well, I’m officially home.

I can’t believe how quickly my 92 days on the road came and went. How fast three whole months, a quarter of a year, simply flew by me.

I learned so much about myself and what I’m capable of over the last 13 weeks. I took on another language, I jumped out of an airplane, I dined solo more times than I can count, I got lost and misread maps in countless cities, and managed to maneuver myself through a 12 hour bus ride, border crossing, and to an emergency clinic with an un-usable right foot. There were tears and grins, nearly 4,000 photos, and countless belongings left at hostels all across the continent. I drained my bank account, and it was worth every penny.

I’m a writer and an abstract thinker, so numbers really aren’t my thing (ask my high school math teachers about that one) but I figured quantifying my trip with a few numbers might be fun, and it’s certainly a crazy way to look at my travels.

Days traveled: 92
Countries visited: 5
Number of new passport stamps: 10
Cities visited: 34
Distance traveled (mostly by bus): Approximately 13,197 km, or just over 8200 miles.
Modes of transportation taken: Taxis, cars, jeeps, buses, vans, tourist minibuses, boats, horses, a donkey, commercial airplanes, 4 seat airplanes, no-seat sky diving airplanes, and parachutes.
Number of bus rides: 33
Hours spent on buses: Approximately 220 hours
Number of flights:  2
Organized tours: 8
Items lost and left behind: My Reef flip flops, my very nice compact travel towel, a plastic tupperware full of leftovers, and many bags of food meant to feed myself on bus rides.

View SA travels as a larger map

As I adjust to being back in the US — the real world — I realize how many things there are that I already miss about South America.

Practicando mi espanol. I loved challenging myself to communicate fully in another language. I was thinking in Spanish, constantly asking questions in Spanish, even translating random song lyrics into Spanish in my head. I am hoping to find cheap language classes or a Spanish exchange program in LA, but I know it won’t be the same as full immersion.

Meeting people, constantly, from all over the world. I have new friends in Switzerland, Holland and the Netherlands, Germany, Belgium, France, South Africa, England, Denmark, Australia, Mexico, Buenos Aires, Montreal, Texas, Alaska, and San Francisco. I met countless others from more countries and cities than I can name. I was constantly learning new things, exchanging information and gaining small glimpses into peoples lives. Sometimes it was sad, or weird, only knowing people for a few minutes, a few hours, or a few days. But for the most part, it was refreshing to have meaningful conversations with people I knew I might never see again, but could still share wonderful moments with nonetheless.

Constant change. Know the city layout? Starting to feel comfortable? Showered more than a handful of times in the same place? Time to move on! The longest I spent in any city after Ecuador was 4 or 5 days, and the constant difference in surroundings, pace, climate, activities, and hostels meant I was truly never bored.

Real Coca Cola. In the rest of the world, Coca Cola manufactures their products in glass bottles, and they use real sugar, not corn syrup. Coke tastes 100% better, and I will truly miss drinking it from those 500ml skinny glass bottles.

Mercados. I miss the local markets with indigenous women selling every fruit and vegetable you can imagine. For less than it would cost to buy a single box of raspberries at Ralphs in Los Angeles, I could buy enough fruits and vegetables to cook for a week.

The excuse to be disconnected. Don’t get me wrong, I love my family and friends, and I’m thrilled to have my iPhone back because it means I can once again be in good communication with the people I love. But being unplugged was a huge blessing – to remove myself from a culture where peoples faces are constantly buried in their smartphones was so healthy. I’ll miss that disconnect, because I know it’s a habit very easily picked up in the States. We all sit with our phones in our hands and don’t communicate with, or even look at, each other. When nobody has a phone to be texting anybody with, you sit at tables or on couches in hostels or cafes and you talk. You get to know people, you swap stories, ideas, learn about new cultures and places in the world. It’s not a novel concept, but it’s one that doesn’t happen quite as often as it should back home.

The lack of pressure to be put together at all moments. I missed my closet so much. My heels, my blazers, my sundresses, my beautiful, and delicate, tank tops I would never take on the road. But it was refreshing to put on a tshirt and jeans every day, not carry a single bit of makeup with me for 3 months, and very rarely feel the pressure to be dressed up or dolled up. Of course there were moments where I wanted my mascara and my jewelry and my skin-hugging denim, but I felt so much less pressure to put all of that on. And when you don’t have all that to hide behind, you present a more raw version of yourself. No one on the road has comfort in a daily beauty routine, makeup, a fancy car, or expensive belongings. All you have is you, and your worn (and reworn, and reworn) travel clothes.

Of course there are many things I absolutely do not miss about South America — cities being totally shut down for almuerzo mid-day and all day Sunday, always having to buy water, not being able to flush paper down the toilets, constantly forgetting things in hostels across the continent, the freezing rain of southern Argentina and Chile, and, of course, 12+ hour bus rides.

And now, it’s back to reality.

In the next two weeks, I’m searching for nanny jobs, nailing out my car and living situations, and then flying east to spend time with Boston and NYC friends, and then delve into the nasty projects of emptying my storage unit, selling everything I can, and shipping what I need back to the west coast.

Even though my trip is over, I plan to keep up my blogging, and have every intention of doing lots of freelance writing from here on out. If nothing else, I’ll be posting ideas I came up with on the road, possibly some of my travel budget spreadsheets, and some updates on how plans for future trips are going!

Ode to my zapatos

It’s hard to believe, considering how massive my shoe and clothing collection are, but I’ve had the same pair of running shoes since 2008.

All trip, I´ve been saying how I can´t wait to throw out my zapatos — or as all my new British friends have taught me to say, trainers — before I leave South America. Partially because without them, I’ll have more space in my pack for souvenirs, but mostly because they’re stained, filthy, and falling apart. But as the last day of my trip nears, the thought of chucking my dear old Asics actually makes me a little sad, and even more nostalgic.

My turquoise and white babies, now a mixed shade of grey and brown, were broken in on the Great Wall of China. They took me to Squashbusters and Marino, my two college gyms, on freezing cold afternoons and sleepless, anxious nights alike. They accompanied me on walks to American Eagle on Newbury Street, where I would stand folding clothing for hours and hours on end. They climbed the Eiffel Tower, traipsed around Israel, wandered Costa Rican rainforests, and were there on my first hike up Los Angeles´s Runyon Canyon. Whenever I was plagued with depression and heartbreak, they faithfully let me shove them on and pound out my emotions on the treadmill, searching for answers to my unhappiness.

And in 2009, when Alex and I did a ridiculous 8,000 mile road trip across the United States, my Asics were there every step of the way. We saw the Grand Canyon, attempted a visit to the four corners monument, explored Denver, saw Badlands National Park and Mt. Rushmore in South Dakota, and visited Arches National Park in Utah… all in my running shoes. Of course there was the eastern and southern parts of the US as well, but I’m pretty sure my poor running shoes sat in the trunk when I switched into flip flops for the warmer cities.

My shoes took me twenty-odd miles up to Machu Picchu, traversed Lago Titicaca´s Isla del Sol, and didn´t complain one bit when they turned a slight reddish tinge from the bright brown dirt of northern Argentina and Iguazu Falls. They´ve stayed tightly on my feet through countless horseback rides in Ecuador, Uruguay, Bolivia, Peru, and Argentina. We climbed Cotopaxi together, ziplined together, and witnessed the incredibly gorgeous southwest circut of Bolivia together. We traversed down the entirety of Colca Canyon in southern Peru, flew over the Nazca Lines, and attempted to sandboard in the sand dunes of Huacachina. They fell with me (on purpose, of course) 10,000 feet from an airplane over San Juan, Argentina and, most recently, they´ve been absolutely soaked as I walked, biked and drove my way through Patagonia and Argentina´s Bariloche.

As I travel and meet people and stare at a map of the world, I feel like there’s so much that I haven’t seen. But I have to remind myself how fortunate I am to have explored the parts of the world that I have made it to. From the cities in the U.S. I´ve called home to the countries I’ve traveled to thousands of miles across the globe, thinking about all the places my feet, encased in my trusty Asics, have taken me, I feel both humbled and fortunate.

There´s something about traveling and meeting people from all over the world that makes me even more excited and anxious to see the rest of the world, to set foot in the countries whose borders I haven´t yet crossed. My plans of moving to NYC to settle down after this trip have shifted. I´m now revising my goals towards thoughts of more travel and world exploration, toward achieving my goal of becoming a travel writer, and with the hopes of planning another major trip for the second half of 2013.

By then, I´ll have a new pair of tennis shoes. I can´t wait to find out where we´ll go together.

A flashback of photos of me wearing my running shoes all over the world…

Her Story: I quit my job to travel in South America

After reading the Lost Girls book in the first week of my travels, I vowed not to be like Amanda and make myself crazy freelancing from the road. That being said, a pitch I’d sent to HerCampus pre-travels was finally approved, so I decided to quickly bang out a “Her Story” contribution for one of my favorite websites. Here is the link to my original piece, published yesterday, but I’ve republished the story below. 

Her Story: I quit my job to travel in South America

Over the last four weeks, I have straddled the equator line, zip-lined through a rainforest on the edge of the Amazon, and climbed to 15,780 feet above sea level on Cotopaxi, one of the highest active volcanoes in the world. I took 80 hours of intensive Spanish, learned how to make Ecuadorian soup with shrimp and plantain “meatballs,” and had my first fluid and coherent conversation in another language.

But six months ago, I was sitting in a cubicle at a desk job in relative misery, anxious, heartbroken and depressed. So let me start from the beginning.

I went to college at Northeastern University, a school I immediately fell in love with because of its co-operative education program: an opportunity to spend six months working full-time in your field in between academic semesters. As an avid writer with my heart set on a journalism career, I knew the key to success in my field was gaining all the clips and experience I could get.

So over five years, I participated in three co-ops – at a small neighborhood newspaper, an IT media company, and for The Boston Globe’s Boston.com. On the side, I co-founded and helped run the Northeastern chapter of Her Campus and was in charge of the extensive tour guide program at my university. I was career-driven and determined to write as much as I could. I even gave up a traditional semester abroad (which I was dying to do) because I wouldn’t have been able to interview for a senior year co-op position.

As the end of my college years loomed, I used my co-op connections to my advantage and started a job immediately after graduation at TechTarget, the IT media company where I’d done my second co-op. A few months later, a nightlife blogging position opened at Boston.com, and I took the blog on as my second job.

I worked meticulously at both jobs for a year. Don’t get me wrong — I was incredibly thankful for my jobs. I knew how lucky I was to be employed not just by one employer, but two. But in the span of that year, I’d faced two rough heartbreaks and was feeling antsy and anxious. I couldn’t believe this was “it” – the rest of my life. I wanted to travel and see the world, and I felt stuck and depressed.

Everyone told me to wait it out. “First jobs are never perfect; the adjustment to the real world is really hard,” they’d say. “Heartbreak just heals with time.” But I knew it was something more than that.

So I started brainstorming and saving every penny I could, adding it to the savings account I’d built up over the last several years. I dreamed of a trip to Europe, a re-location to NYC. I contemplated applying for other jobs, even moving back home to Los Angeles. But in May, the stars aligned.  One of my best friends from high school, who had been living in Chile for just over two years, was quitting her job in Santiago to relocate to NYC. Before she left, she was hoping to do some traveling through South America. Her sister was also quitting her job and starting graduate school in the fall, so the three of us made plans for a jaunt to Argentina and Uruguay.

With shaky hands and tears in my eyes, I took a huge risk – one that many people warned me against – and gave my boss my two weeks notice. It was one of the hardest and best things I have ever done.

My father’s proudest moment was when I, his only daughter, graduated from university. But not because I finally had a diploma in hand. It was because I graduated with a job offer, and he knew that I wasn’t one of the many recent grads who would be forced to move back home and desperately seek work. I was employed, and to him, that was success. So you can imagine his reaction when I told him I wanted to throw all of that away to go see the world. Thankfully, my Mom was a little more supportive. She understood the depression and frustration I was going through, and though she wanted me to remain on the same continent, she understood I was feeling restless.

That being said, I’ve always been independent. I moved across the country at the age of 18, and have been living on my own for six years. I knew my parents would love me no matter what, and so despite my father’s disappointment, I took the risk.

I don’t think I know a single person who doesn’t say one of their life goals is to travel and see the world. But how many people really do just that? How many people quit their jobs, leave their worldly possessions, pick up their lives, and just go? Too few.

That being said, most American teenagers and young adults who do take a gap year, or gap months, dream of backpacking through Europe. They talk of buying Eurorail passes and seeing Paris, Amsterdam and Rome, of taking a summer off to explore the Grecian isles. And while there’s nothing wrong with that, let me start by saying that South America is half the price. Europe is expensive and glamorous, with amazing meals to be had and expensive hotels to stay in. Everything in South America is, bottom line, cheap. It’s meant to be roughed through — living on $30 a day here is no problem, and taking buses across borders for $10 each is as easy as ordering the menu de dia – the daily lunch menu of fresh juice, soup, and a main course for as little as $2.50.

I immediately fell in love with South America. But after six weeks in the southern hemisphere — three with my friend and her sister and three on my own in Peru and Bolivia — I got on a plane bound for Los Angeles, not ready to leave. My plan when I returned to the US was to face the real world again: work my butt off to get a job in NYC, sign a lease, and make the next steps in my journalism career.

But as I reunited with my family and friends back home and contemplated beginning my life again across the country, I just couldn’t stand the thought. My career-driven self had a brand new thought: I have my whole life to work. Why wouldn’t I go see the world now, when my only physical obligation was $98 a month to the UHaul in Middletown, Connecticut where my mattress and boxes sat in storage?

So that’s exactly what I did. I planned three months of solo travel in South America. The first month would be spent on a traveling classroom program through Ecuador, taking 20 hours of Spanish classes a week and staying with local, Ecuadorian families to hone my speaking skills. The next two months would consist of making my way down the coast of Peru, into Bolivia, down through northwestern Argentina, and finally into Chile, where my return flight to Los Angeles is booked from Santiago on December 30.

For the most part, my family and friends reacted well. My Dad was still hesitant about my decision, but at that point I’d already given up my job, so he simply shrugged and said, “It’s your money, honey.” Mostly it was my parents’ friends, my older family friends, who reacted so positively, which really solidified my decision. “Good for you!” they’d say. “Now’s the time to go, when you’re young and have nothing tying you down.” My own friends reacted with just as much enthusiasm, sending emails, Facebook posts and g-chats about how jealous they were that I was “living the life” and seeing the world.

Making the decision to pause my life and see one of the most spectacular, and underrated, continents of the world has been the best decision I’ve ever made. Sure, I miss my parents and my friends. Sure, I wish I wasn’t scraping every penny out of my savings account. And trust me, living out of a backpack with eight outfit options doesn’t exactly appeal to my inner fashionista. But I know the comforts of home — a guaranteed hot shower, all my favorite outfits, and a refrigerator to call my own, not to mention my true friends and family — aren’t going anywhere. As I face challenges small and large: bug bites swollen to the size of my fists, misunderstood bus schedules, insanely challenging hikes, and horrifically bad maps, I’m learning more about myself than I could have even imagined.

Looking back to when I was just out of a three-year relationship and struggling desperately to come to terms with my new single status, one of my old bosses told me this: You’re the only guaranteed and stable partner you’ll have for the entirety of your life.” I didn’t want to listen to her then, but as the years have passed, those words ring truer than ever. Of course, having someone next to you is a wonderful way to travel, and a huge comfort. But the bottom line is I am secure and comfortable with myself, and I knowing that, if need be, I can face whatever challenge comes my way on my own. It’s one of the most incredible feelings in the world. What better way to achieve that goal than by seeing the beauty of the world?


The five things I want to remember

To start, I have stumbled upon two blogs that I’ve found mind-altering and inspiring. Both LegalNomad and The Lost Girls are blogs run by women who picked up their lives to see the world, writing and blogging their way through, making enough money to keep traveling. This is how I want to live my life, as a travel writer, and I haven’t had such career clarity in a long time. It’s time to start working toward that goal. And with that, my five goals.

Taking trips right after one another (or city-hopping all summer, as I did) helps you learn lessons and think about things when you’re traveling that would never occur to you when you’re living in the comforts of home. No matter how much you read on blogs or travel forums, learning those lessons yourself is what truly engrains them in your head.

When I was in South America, I learned more about practicality in travel more quickly than I had imagined I would. No, scratch that, I didn’t imagine it. I didn’t even think twice about the travel lessons I would take home. So now that I’m back in the U.S. and settled but about to jet off again, I’m thinking back to all those things I made mental notes of as I load up my brand new backpacking pack.

With those thoughts swirling in my insomniac brain (between restlessness and anxiety I can’t sleep to save my life – very frustrating!), I’ve decided to make a list of five goals I want to keep over the next 3 months.

Don’t hesitate to talk to strangers. I’m not a shy person. I talk to strangers, I have been known to butt into other peoples conversations, and I’m constantly eavesdropping. But when I was in South America, I think mainly because of the language barrier, I found that I hesitated to approach people or push myself into conversations when I wish I would have. I wish I had jumping pictures of myself in spectacular places — that could have happened if I’d simply asked someone. I day dreamt of joining with other travelers and heading in the same direction that they were — I didn’t have the flexibility to do that on my last trip, but I’m promising myself that I’ll do it on this one. I wish I had more conversations with the people I observed from the outside — I wish I talked to people on my flights and asked too many questions of random strangers. I can’t wait to leave my comfort zone and do that. Furthermore, I want to keep in touch with those people. A family friend told me that getting peoples email addresses, to create a world network of connections, was the most valuable thing he did. I can’t wait to take that advice.

Don’t dress down too much. Simplicity in packing is key, and not standing out too much is also essential, but when you’re constantly dressed in the same grubby t-shirt and jeans, you can just feel downright dirty, even if you just did laundry. In my 6 weeks abroad, I wished I had one piece of jewelry and one nice top to wear with my jeans for the night I went to grab a beer with travelers I met or took myself to dinner at a nicer-than-average joint. So even though I’m committed to sticking to packing less than 10 tops, one of those tops won’t be a plain v-neck.

Don’t blog about every step you take. Simply put, it’s too exhausting to keep up writing like that every night, and no one wants to read 1000 words about every single day. I want to learn to write better catchy headlines, to summarize the less important things more concisely, and to soak in all the details — especially in funny, unique circumstances — as they make for the best narrative.

Stop being a neurotic stress-case. I blame this trait fully on genetics — after a 10 day trip in Montreal with my extended family, I fully understand why I over-worry constantly about every detail. I am a perfect combination of my mother’s OCD and my father’s neurotic pessimism (as my Mom says, between genetics and heredity, you’re screwed). It’s time to let the neurosis go. Your bus is late by 3 hours? Your hostel roommate comes home wasted at 3 am and attempts to have sex on your bed? You discover the hostel you were going to stay at has bed bugs? Getting upset solves nothing. That, of course, is easier said than done, but I’m going to repeat that mantra to myself as often as I can when I find myself in ridiculous situations. I can say without being a pompous ass that I am a capable, intelligent young woman who has apt problem solving skills. I will find a new hostel, take advantage of the downtime to blog or read, and laugh at the lack of sleep knowing it will be a great story. Curve balls are one of travel’s best assets.

Do what you want, when you want, and embrace the seemingly terrible. Why? Because those experiences make the best stories. In all the travel writing I’ve been devouring in the last few weeks, I realize the stories I’m drawn to aren’t the perfect, flawless vacation narratives. They’re the ones with character.

“I think you’re at the wrong airport..”

Hearing someone say those words to you, in slightly broken English, at 5:45 in the morning is not a good way to start your day. Just, you know, in case you were wondering.

To clarify, Buenos Aires has two airports. As I understood (until this morning), the Jose Newbury Aeroparque is the local airport, and the other, a 30 minute drive out of the city, is the international airport. Alison and I flew into the Buenos Aires International Airport from Santiago at the end of May when we first came to Argentina, and since I had booked a round trip ticket back to Santiago from BA, I simply assumed my flight would leave from that international airport. Of course, I knew there was a local airport, since I had flown in and out of Iguazu through the Aeroparque, and I even joked with Alison when I was coordinating a taxi pickup through the BA hostel I stayed at last night that it was a good thing I knew to differentiate between the two airports, otherwise they would have sent a driver to pick me up at the wrong one.

So when I forked over $180 pesos (just about $40 US) and hopped out of my taxi this morning after a 30 minute drive outside the city, you can imagine my disbelief when the LAN agent I spoke with told me my flight wasn’t, in fact, leaving from that airport. Luckily, I’m my parent’s daughter and left a ridiculous amount of time between getting to the airport and my actual flight departure time (7:50 AM) since I didn’t know how long customs would take, so the extra 45 minutes back to downtown BA wasn’t too detrimental and I was able to make my flight. Thank goodness it was a Sunday morning and the roads were empty! Of course I had to pay another $220 pesos ($50 US) to get all the way back where I had just come from… nothing like wasting close to $100 on a stupid mistake! Oh well, lesson learned and it all worked out fine — I made my flight without a problem, and I’m back safely at Alison & Ignacio’s apartment.

I’m in disbelief that 3 weeks of my trip have already gone by — I can’t believe I’m back in Santiago, getting ready to travel on my own, and hike to Machu Picchu at that! I have such a mix of emotions: part of me is terrified to be out in Peru and Bolivia by myself, another part of me can’t wait to be on my own, truly enjoying my independence and some very serious “me” time.

Last night was a bit of a strange experience in and of itself — I got back from Iguazu and got in the cab my hostel had arranged for me, checked in at the hostel to find that even though I’d paid $8.60 US for one bed in a 4 bed suite, I was actually going to be staying in a room on my own. I didn’t have any complaints, of course, but was confused when they showed me to a rather large room with only one bed and a small wooden wardrobe with a place to lock my bags. Of course the tiny heater they had started in the far corner of the room (opposite the bed) was doing nothing to heat the huge space, so I knew it was going to be a cold night.

I think I confused the man working the desk — when I asked him to bring me an extra blanket and he came upstairs, he seemed completely taken aback that I had taken it upon myself to move the bed directly next to the heater. Hey, a girls gotta do what a girls gotta do. I told him I’d move it back this morning, but he didn’t seem too concerned, just mostly confused. Luckily leggings underneath my sweatpants, two pairs of socks, a tank top, long sleeve shirt and sweatshirt were enough to keep me warm under the two relatively thin blankets they’d given me. I’m becoming a pro at learning to sleep in the cold!

I also had a grocery store fail yesterday: the original plan was to meet up with Erica and cook, but she wanted to go out to dinner and watch the Celtics, and the last thing I wanted to do was to be faced with Boston sports in another hemisphere. Instead, I went across the street to the grocery store, where I spent a significant amount of time wandering the aisles, probably looking like a sad, lost and confused puppy to everyone else in the store. In all fariness, it’s rather difficult to grocery shop in another language and country where you don’t have the vocabulary to ask where things are.

At one point, I was able to mutter the question “Donde esta queso parmesano?” to a man stocking the shelves, who answered something very quickly and pointed in a vague, general direction, so off I went to wander down the same 3 aisles I’d already been down. Of course, grocery shopping for one is impossible in the states, but to shop for one person, for one night, not being able to keep any leftovers was a total fail. I spent $40 pesos ($9ish bucks) on pasta, pasta sauce, parmesan cheese, a yellow bell pepper (the only decent looking vegetable I could find in the produce section), chocolate cookies and a bottle of water.

One thing I wish Alison, Carolyn and I had done more of when we were traveling was cook — buying groceries to split and share amongst 3 people is relatively easy. Unfortunately, we didn’t really have a kitchen we could use at the BA B&B we were at, so it didn’t make much sense, but it could have saved us a lot of money, especially since Buenos Aires is a very expensive city to eat out in.

I met two super sweet girls from Liverpool while I was cooking dinner last night, and left them with my extra pasta and sauce, and they were very grateful. I talked to them a little about how they had taken the TEFL and were certified to teach English, spending their summer after graduating from university in Buenos Aires together. I wish it weren’t so expensive to take the class and get certified in the states — aside from that obvious hurdle and the fact that I’m paying to store my stuff in Connecticut right now, I think I’d very seriously consider moving abroad to teach if I had someone to go with. I do feel so thankful that I am truly “free” right now — though the goal is to be in New York City eventually, I can really do whatever I want, and that freedom is so exhilarating!

Speaking of, Briann just booked a two week trip out to the west coast! We’re going to meet in Seattle on July 11 and spend a few days in Seattle, then hop down to Portland, then see San Francisco before we head down to LA for a few days in my home city to show her around. She has never seen the pacific ocean and I’ve never been further north than Sacramento, so I’m very excited to export the Pacific northwest! I think it will be hard heading back to LA from such an amazing vacation/travel adventure, so I’m glad to have another leg of travel booked — and this time speaking the language and having a cell phone will make coordinating and traveling much easier!

The rest of today is dedicated to errands: doing laundry, unpacking and repacking, getting passport pictures taken for my Bolivian visa, printing out copies of my credit card and passport, also for my visa, and then buying a handful of things like an alarm clock, flashlight, and more shampoo/conditioner. I’m glad I have the day to get that type of stuff done — it’s much needed after 18 days of non-stop travel!